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EU Semester is now a relevant tool for breaking down barriers to inclusion

The European Semester is a mechanism aiming to help Member States coordinate their economic and social policies. Published each year, the Country Reports provide the European Commission’s assessment of national reforms and policies. The Reports then serve as a basis for a series of Country-Specific Recommendations provided to each Member State.
 
Since 2013, EASPD has worked significantly with its members to provide the European institutions with up-to-date messages on the major challenges at national level towards the development of high quality care and support services for persons with disabilities, in line with the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In 2016, EASPD produced proposals on the reforms and policy changes needed to break down barriers to employment for persons with disabilities.
 
EASPD fully welcomes that many of our proposals have been included in this year’s Country Reports.
 
The Country Report for Bulgaria for instance is critical of the “limited provision of social services to support the long-term unemployed”, which reflects our proposal that legislative and administrative limitations hinder the ability for social services to provide additional services for activating unemployed people. The Country Report for the Slovak Republic discusses the need for the “planned hiring of new specialised staff, outsourcing of job search support and enhanced cooperation with private agencies and NGOs” to enhance the provision of individualised support services. This is in line with EASPD’s proposal for this country to further involve the strong and professionalised non-profit sector which has a long-standing experience in the labour market and employment support for persons with disabilities. The Country Report for Finland highlights the problems linked to the “administrative complexity (bureaucratic traps) related to the reinstating of benefits for those moving in and out of the labour market”, highlighting EASPD’s similar message in this regard.
 
Mr Jim Crowe, President of EASPD, believes that “the Country Reports show a growing understanding that a more Social Europe is key to breaking down exclusionary barriers at national level”; adding that “to ensure that social inclusion becomes a reality for real people, investment into successful and effective policy interventions should be a priority. The time has come for the European Union to reconsider its tight fiscal rules and allow Member States additional flexibility for quality social investment”.
 
EASPD also welcomes the European Commission’s Communication on the main findings and results of the Country Reports which argues that “social investment is a prerequisite for a successful and lasting recovery”.  
 
Investment into successful and effective policy interventions in the field of social inclusion of persons with disabilities is a priority for EASPD in 2017. Later this year, EASPD will provide up-to-date data on the key trends and policies regarding the funding of social services at national level. The report will also highlight EASPD’s view that adequate public funding is the main ingredient for quality social investment, a perspective which the European Commission should further promote and protect.
 
EASPD will also continue to work significantly towards ensuring that the EU Investment Plan for Europe supports investment into quality community-based social infrastructure. In this regard, EASPD welcomes the Commission’s view that “additional efforts have to be deployed to design instruments adapted to this (social) sector and to ensure that social and financial actors cooperate more closely”; both arguments being fully in line with EASPD’s proposals.
 
Mr Luk Zelderloo, Secretary General of EASPD, welcomes that “the European Commission and the European Union proved to be open to dialogue with civil society organisations. These frank and constructive discussions are necessary to ensure that Europe has a future which works for all people. We look forward to working with the EU institutions to make progress towards a more Social Europe”.
 

 
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Note to editors

EASPD is a non-profit European organisation, established in 1996, and currently representing over 15.000 social and health services for persons with disabilities. EASPD advocates for effective and high-quality disability-related services in the field of education, employment and individualised support, in line with the principles of the UN CRPD. EASPD promotes equal opportunities for persons with disabilities through the provision of individualised services. The EASPD network supports and promotes the structural cooperation with all stakeholders in society as well as social innovation. EASPD also calls for fair working conditions and training for professionals working in services for people with disabilities.
 

CONTACT DETAILS 

Thomas Bignal, Policy Officer

+32 2 233 2723